Hot and Bothered
Sunday, June 10, 2012 – Fenway Park, Section 43
Nationals 4, Red Sox 3
After finally getting over .500 at the end of May, the Red Sox had fallen back below the break-even mark again, dropping their first two games against the Washington Nationals. I went in early for Sunday’s game, and found a free parking spot at a meter on Comm. Ave. The Red Sox don’t usually take batting practice on Sundays, but the pitchers came out to right field to long-toss. While they were throwing, Big Papi came out with his son D’Angelo to play catch – or at least to let “D” practice diving for popups.
Jon Lester gave up a quick run in the first when the leadoff batter doubled and then moved up and scored as the next batters made outs. The Sox got the run back in the third, and they grabbed the lead when Big Papi hit a solo homer in the fourth. The way the Red Sox had been playing lately, it didn’t always feel like they were winning just because they had the lead. It was hot and sticky in the bleachers, but a couple of insurance runs certainly would have made me feel more comfortable.
Lester settled down nicely after the first, and the Sox took at 2-1 lead into the seventh. The first Nationals batter of the inning reached on a fan-interference single. It bounced off third baseman Will Middlebrooks’ glove, and rolled toward the stands where a fan reached over and grabbed it. The batter assumed he’d be awarded second, but there’s no way he would have ever made it there if the fan hadn’t interfered. I was pleasantly surprised when the umps conferred and sent him back to first – it is their discretion after all – because that’s a play that I don’t think gets called correctly often enough. But then the next batter singled, and they pulled off a double steal, and before we knew it a two-out double gave Washington a 3-2 lead.
The Red Sox didn’t give up. They tied it back up in the home half of the seventh, and Scott Atchison pitched a 1-2-3 eighth. That’s when I decided it was time to make my move out of the uncomfortably hot bleachers to the shady seats vacated by casual fans, and I wound up in the field box seats between home plate and first base.
Alfredo Aceves came into the tie game for the ninth, and proceeded to give up a walk and a double that handed the lead to the Nationals again. On to the bottom of the ninth, with the Sox once again trailing.
Kevin Youkilis pinch-hit with one out in the ninth. He hadn’t seen a lot of playing time since coming off the disabled list, with Adrian Gonzalez solidly entrenched at first and Middlebrooks emerging as a major-league-ready everyday player at third, but he made the most of the opportunity and worked a walk. Scott Podsednik struck out for the second out, and that left it up to Dustin Pedroia.
The Sox had been unhappy with the home plate ump’s strike zone in the top of the inning, when it looked like Aceves had struck out the batter who eventually delivered the back-breaking double. But when he made another questionable call during Pedroia’s at-bat, Pedey was clearly steamed. Bobby Valentine came out to take the focus off his player and wound up getting tossed, but not before making some dramatic gestures about the size of the strike zone. Pedey paced back and forth off to the side, clearly not happy but careful not to get himself run from the game. As the game resumed, he fouled off a pitch and then struck out, ending the game in frustration.